#MuslimsOfRutgers: love, maybe

The following is an excerpt from an (as-of-yet) unpublished short story.

me

I officially gave up on crushes when I was eighteen.

I realized they were stupid and terrible and nothing good came out of them long before legal adulthood, but that didn’t actually prevent me from falling head over heels when a cute boy came into my life or my English classroom halfway through the year with big brown eyes and a Zelda backpack.

Whether or not I dated, at seventeen I found it pretty easy to crush on just about anyone if they happened to be Muslim and openly shared an interest with me. My hormonal mind decided that this particular guy–sitting two seats to the left of me in first period English and one behind in third period Math–had to be some sort of destiny.

He played his DS all alone every Study Hall in the cafeteria. Before he moved there, I’d stash mine in my locker after homeroom and retrieve it before the bus ride home, but now something about his existence magically transported it into my hands. At the other end of his table, I’d close my eyes and try to guess what he was playing from the music trailing down to my end, and the next day I’d bring that same game and slip it inside, turn the music up just enough so that he’d hear it and recognize it, too.

It worked.

Not the first or second time–probably because my volume was too low or he had his earbuds in–but the third time I tried it his brow went up and he tilted his head, asked, “Hey, is that Shadow Dragon?”

“Yeah,” I said. He slid down the bench to sit by me.

“Dude, your Marth is on steroids.” He pointed at my character on screen. I’d put a lot of effort into making a good team the night before, just in case the boy I totally wasn’t trying to impress happened to have his DS on him in Study Hall and might want to face me.

“Yep,” I said.

Then the bell rang and we went our separate ways.

I pretty much nailed our first conversation. The day after that he sat next to me without any prompting, pulled out his DS, and started to play.

For the rest of high school, we were good friends. He moved a seat over in English when he could and soon we were giving each other the answers for pop quizzes in Math or tricking each other into believing that A^2 + B^2 = C^3. The year after we took our foreign language requirement together and brought a pack of cards to play Hush in Study Hall. I started to understand what love was when day-by-day his face would get more handsome.

Senior year he lent me an old copy of Pokémon Sapphire with the active team named “Go to the prom with me?”

But I didn’t date. Crush or not, I had no choice but to turn him down.

“Oh,” he said, squinting at me like he saw me in a different light, like the scarf pinned around my head was something new or only just now understood. “I didn’t realize you were so hardcore.”

That stung.

I didn’t realize it’d offend you,” I said, and turned and walked away.

He cut his hair that spring break and when his Zelda backpack ripped from the weight of his Biology textbook, he replaced it with a JanSport. He took the girl to the right of us to prom and didn’t ask me about it or anything else again. Somewhere between March and May, he stopped being attractive altogether.

Thank God. ❧

Heba is a junior majoring in English with a certificate in Creative Writing. A fan of ice cream, tellarknights, and natural light, she hopes you’ll read her books someday.

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